Lake Oroville Update - June 14, 2024


CAL FIRE Butte County crews monitor a controlled burn in the Thermalito Forebay area to minimize invasive and dried grasses.

CAL FIRE Butte County crews monitor a controlled burn in the Thermalito Forebay area to minimize invasive and dried grasses.

Lake Oroville Remains Full

With temperatures remaining in the triple digits, Lake Oroville continues to remain at full capacity, offering ample water recreation and cooling opportunities for visitors. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is adjusting water releases from the reservoir as needed to account for increasing or decreasing inflows while maintaining flood protection for downstream communities. Releases are closely coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other water operators and adjusted as needed to maintain balance throughout the water system. DWR continues to monitor Lake Oroville levels to optimize water storage while meeting environmental requirements and allowing for carryover storage into next year.  


With Lake Oroville at full capacity, windy periods are likely to cause water to splash onto and over the crest of the emergency spillway. This will result in minor surface wetting of the downstream side of the emergency spillway crest and the very upper sections of the splash pad. Visitors to Oroville Dam may also notice minor amounts of water flowing from drains built into the emergency spillway. Both conditions are normal and expected given the emergency spillway design. The dam and emergency spillway continue to operate as intended.


The information below reflects current reservoir level estimates. Forecasts can change quickly and may affect the estimates provided.


  • Current Oroville Reservoir Level: 898 feet elevation 
  • Current Storage Capacity: 99 percent  
  • Total Releases to the Feather River: 3,800 cubic feet per second (cfs)

Total releases to the Feather River amount to 3,800 cfs with 850 cfs being routed down the Low Flow Channel through the City of Oroville. An additional 2,950 cfs is being released from the Thermalito Afterbay River Outlet, located 5 miles downstream from Oroville. DWR continues to assess Feather River releases daily.


As the largest storage facility in the State Water Project, Lake Oroville helps provide water to 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland, while providing flood protection to downstream communities along with environmental and recreation benefits. Spring is an important time for water project operators to fill reservoirs like Lake Oroville ahead of dry months. It also is an important migration window for many native fish species. DWR is using the best available science to protect fish species. However, SWP operations have faced significant restrictions in the Delta this year that have impacted the ability in other areas of the state to capture and store the water needed if California sees a return to drought conditions.


More Prescribed Burns Anticipated Next Week

DWR, CAL FIRE/Butte County Fire Department, and the California Department of Parks and Recreation (State Parks) will continue prescribed burn activities near the Thermalito Afterbay and Forebay between Thursday, June 20 and Saturday, June 22. Approximately 120 acres will be burned near the Thermalito Afterbay between north Wilbur Road and Tres Vias Road. At the Thermalito Forebay, approximately 140 acres will be burned across three different locations – near Grand Avenue and the Thermalito South Forebay Recreation Area, and around the north Forebay area near Garden Drive and Nelson Park. CAL FIRE is using this controlled burn as a training mechanism for its employees. Fire personnel will utilize the burn to train on specific strategies and tactics associated with wildland fires and firing operations.

The burns are part of DWR’s Thermalito Vegetation Management Project, which was established in 2021 to improve valley grassland and vernal pool habitat. They also have the added benefit of reducing dry brush near the Thermalito Forebay and Nelson Park in preparation for the City of Oroville’s Fourth of July fireworks showcase. Burn activities are dependent on favorable weather conditions with the schedule subject to change. Smoke from prescribed burning activities will be highly visible in the Oroville area next week.


DWR, CAL FIRE, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) previously completed a 100-acre prescribed burn along South Wilbur Road near the Afterbay to remove grasses and invasive vegetation. Annual grasses and other invasive species like the yellow starthistle degrade native grasslands and fire is a valuable tool to combat this degradation. Because invasive species have abundant seeds and dry material called thatch that build up on the soil, it is important to burn the same area multiple years in a row. When completed during the right stage in these species' growth cycle, the prescribed burns eradicate the current crop, reduce the dry residual thatch, and decrease the spread of seeds. The area has seen a significant decline in the volume of invasive grasses and starthistles since the project began. The burns also allow DWR to continue post-fire studies on vernal pool habitat.


California Climate Adaptation Strategy

The world’s leading climate scientists have made it clear - our window to avoid the worst impacts of climate change is narrowing faster than expected, and success requires unprecedented collective effort and transformational change. The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) recently released a draft of the 2024 update to the California Climate Adaptation Strategy and is seeking public feedback through July 12, 2024. The 2024 draft builds on the previously released 2021 Strategy and outlines the state's key climate resilience priorities, includes specific and measurable actions, and serves as a framework for collective efforts across California.


CNRA is hosting a public workshop and community meeting on Tuesday, June 18 in Oroville to discuss the draft 2024 California Climate Adaptation Strategy and obtain feedback. Both meetings will be held at the Southside Oroville Community Center located at 2959 Lower Wyandotte Road, Oroville, CA. Food and refreshments will be provided at both sessions.

Oroville Recreation

Staffed by knowledgeable guides, the Visitor Center features interpretive displays on Oroville Dam, area geology, wildlife and habitat, hydroelectric power, and cultural and historical artifacts. View videos in the theater about the construction of Oroville Dam, walk or hike along nearby trails, and visit the 47-foot-tall observation tower that provides unsurpassed panoramic views of surrounding areas. Free guided tours for school and community groups are available by reservation. Parking and admission to the Visitor Center are free.


DWR, State Parks, and CDFW maintain over 92 miles of trails in the Oroville area. An interactive map of recreation facilities, including open trails and their permitted uses (hike, bike, horse, multi), is available on DWR’s Lake Oroville Recreation webpage. A paper trail map is available at various locations, including most entrance kiosks and the Lake Oroville Visitor Center.


Lake Oroville is one of the State Water Project’s premier recreational destinations and one of California’s best fishing spots. The lake provides both warm-water and cold-water fisheries and is a popular destination for bass tournaments. Below the Oroville Dam, the Thermalito Afterbay and the Feather River offer additional excellent fishing opportunities. The marinas at Bidwell Canyon and Lime Saddle are open daily and provide a variety of services including a convenience store, gas, and boat rentals.


Upstream migrating fish totals through the Feather River Fish Monitoring Station between January 1 and June 10 are:  

  • Spring-run Chinook salmon: 5,410
  • Steelhead: 874
  • Due to higher flows in the low-flow channel of the Feather River between February 26 and March 18, some fish swam over the monitoring station and were not counted in upstream migration totals.

Current Lake Operations

Lake Oroville is at 898 feet elevation and storage is approximately 3.51 million acre-feet (MAF), which is 99 percent of its total capacity and 127 percent of the historical average.


Feather River flows are at 850 cfs through the City of Oroville with 2,950 cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay River Outlet (Outlet) for a total Feather River release of 3,800 cfs downstream. DWR continues to assess Feather River releases daily.


The public can track precipitation, snow, reservoir levels and more at the California Data Exchange Center. The Lake Oroville gage station is identified as “ORO.”


All data as of midnight 6/13/2024.